It's hasn't been the kind of year Missouri fans had hoped for as the Tigers come into Saturday's game against fourth-ranked Georgia with a 1-4 record and still looking for their first victory in SEC play (0-3).
Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart has extolled the virtues of the Tigers' offense. But is he just being polite?
As we continue our weekly Opposition Research series, we turn to PowerMizzou publisher Gabe DeArmond to get his take on Saturday's game.
UGASports: From an offensive standpoint, Missouri seems relatively balanced. How successful do Mizzou coaches believe the Tigers can be against the Bulldog defense?
DeARMOND: "They're balanced. But really, they've only played one good game. I disregard the opener against Missouri State because the Tigers should have lit up the scoreboard against them. They struggled badly against South Carolina, Purdue and Auburn before rebounding with the best game of the year against Kentucky. Damarea Crockett and Ish WItter are a solid 1-2 punch. Drew Lock is capable of making throws very few quarterbacks in the country can make...but he hasn't done it consistently. The receivers have been up and down, but looked a lot better last week when Emanuel Hall entered the starting lineup after Dimetrios Mason was dismissed from the team."
UGASports: How has Drew Lock improved as a junior? When is he at his best, and when does he get himself in trouble?
DeARMOND: "You could make the argument he hasn't improved much. He's capable of being great, which Georgia fans saw in the first half last year and he's capable of being pretty bad as he was against the Bulldogs in the second half. And that's the problem. He makes throws very few guys can make, but he also makes some throws that really leave you scratching your head. The completion percentage is still hovering just above 50%. He is really good on the deep ball and hits some home runs, but he's not consistently accurate enough in the short passing game. He put together what I thought was his best game against Kentucky from start to finish. But for a three-week stretch, he made some throws that were intercepted and put the Missouri defense (which needs all the help it can get) in some really tough situations."
UGASports: Missouri's defense struggled against Auburn and gave up 40 last week to Kentucky? Where is Mizzou's defense coming into this game and how do you see this matchup as it pertains to what Georgia has been able to do offensively?
DeARMOND: "Honestly, on defense, I think it's a talent issue more than anything. There just isn't enough of it. Terry Beckner saw his last two seasons end early with torn ACLs and looked tentative for the first few games this year. He played pretty well at Kentucky. Terez Hall looks like an emerging standout at linebacker, but Missouri's two biggest issues are defensive end and the secondary. Mizzou has built a reputation on producing standout defensive ends from Aldon Smith through Charles Harris. But they don't have a difference maker this year. Three players are tied with 1.5 sacks on the season. In the secondary, they lost cornerback Christian Holmes in the preseason and they've really struggled to find anyone who has played well consistently. They've rotated a bunch of guys at corner and safety, but none have really separated himself from the rest. As for the matchup, Missouri's going to have to score a lot to win this game...which isn't a very good recipe against the Bulldogs."
UGASports: It's been a tough second year for Barry Odom. Where is the program now compared to when he took over, is progress being made?
DeARMOND: "Boy, that's a great question. If you listen to Odom, they're making progress and moving in the right direction and he's the man to get the job done. Very few outside the walls see it right now. Missouri wasn't good when he took over. The Tigers were 5-7 in Gary Pinkel's last year and coming off the boycott that made national headlines. Odom's first year really went south when Georgia beat them in the final minute in week three. If Mizzou wins that game, I think they make a bowl game last year and are on an upward trajectory. But they struggled for the next six weeks before looking good in the final three games and beating Vandy and Arkansas. The second half against South Carolina was terrible and then the Tigers really never showed up against Purdue and Auburn. The effort against Kentucky was much better, but the problem was that they were in such a hole from a 1-3 start that a close loss really doesn't pacify anyone. After the UGA game, Missouri faces Idaho and Connecticut. You would think those are wins so they're likely going to be 3-5 going into a finishing stretch of Florida and Tennessee at home and Vandy and Arkansas on the road. If the Tigers can split those, we'll find out a lot about what Odom might be able to do next year. But if they can't get two wins in that group, we'll go into the offseason uncertain if he even gets year three."
UGASports: What should Georgia's biggest concern be playing against the Tigers?
DeARMOND: "This is the toughest question of all. This game really isn't about Missouri at all. It's about Georgia. If the Bulldogs play an A or a B game, they're going to win and do so pretty easily. The only way Mizzou can win is if Georgia lets them do it. The Tigers are last in the country in turnover margin. If they don't win that battle in Athens by at least a couple, I can't see it being close."